10-20-2004, 12:18 AM #1AnabolicAlien Guest
Who is going out for Halloween??? I'm dressing up as BTDR.
Lately I've been really obsessed with seeing The Texas Chainsaw Massacre again. All the hype around the big Hollywood remake, which opened at #1, only made me wanna see the original again, as I hadn't seen it in five years. I finally took care of the urge this weekend, by renting the 30th Anniversary DVD. I've heard the remake actually isn't terrible, but I just saw an ad for the soundtrack CD and it's a bunch of god**** nu-metal bands! That alone proves they dropped the ball, even if they hired Daniel Pearl to reprise his role as cinematographer. Why remake perfection? Here's just a few things that seemed particularly great about the 1974 original as I reacquainted myself this weekend . . .
1. Perfection. The Texas Chainsaw Massacre is one of the most Bressonian horror movies ever made, and certainly one of the most Bressonian psychotronic films ever made. By Bressonian I mean that hardly a single shot or edit or even actor's movement seems superfluous. A word that comes up often among fans of the film is "perfect." Viewing the deleted scenes on the new 30th anniversary DVD makes this all the more apparent -- Mr. Hooper and Co. shot a lot of interesting stuff (like Leatherface applying makeup to his dead skin mask, or having a brief early tantrum when Sally runs to the family's gas-station for help), but they weren't afraid to cut anything that wasn't directly crucial to the bare-bones storyline and the film's oppressive mood. The result is a lean 84 minutes that are, well . . . perfect.
2. Minimalism. The plot may be Slasher 101 -- a group of nubile young adults on a road trip run out of gas near a strange farmhouse, and looking for help, they are picked off one by one, except for one female member of the group who displays exceptional survival skills -- but Chainsaw has an uncompromising minimalism that most slasher films don't even try to match. The last hour of the movie takes place in an area of about 100 square yards, where one by one, three of the kids walk from their moored van to the nearby farmhouse, entering the same front door into the same hallway that leads to Leatherface's spectacularly decorated meat locker. The killer doesn't even have to go out and omnipotently hunt his prey -- they come to him. This insurmountable hallway becomes a horror icon in itself, the fulcrum on which the tight structure of the film balances.
3. Daylight. Another twist on the slasher formula is that these three hallway murders happen in the daytime. The scene in which the character Pam (played by Teri McMinn) flees the house but is grabbed and brought back inside by Leatherface shocks because, not only is a defenseless human being treated like a piece of meat, but because it presents a maniac in a dead skin mask out in broad daylight. Does the remake have any Leatherface-in-daylight scenes? Well, maybe it does, but somehow I doubt it. How much of a maniac is this guy? Wait and see what he does with Pam when he brings her back inside . . .
4. Implication / Set Design. And speaking of that horrific ensuing scene and the way it is shot, it is always pointed out that there is really no gore in the entire film. This is true -- eventually there is blood smeared all over Leatherface's apron, and all over Sally, and that is about it. Actual points of impact between instrument and flesh are not shown, only implied. But the implication doesn't stop with just gore and violence. To me, the most heavy implication in the film is when Pam / McMinn first discovers the 'chicken room', falling onto a floor covered with plucked feathers, surrounded by what seem to be thousands of human and animal bones, arrayed in a manner that seems to be both haphazard and ritualistic. A human skull dangles from the ceiling with a bull's horn shoved through it's mouth, above crude furniture made of human flesh and bone. I would like to personally award an Oscar to the film's art director, Robert A. Burns, for designing this chamber of horrors. The implication here is that someone has REALLY (literally?) let their household go to hell. It's like when you're out walking in the city and you go by a dilapidated house or apartment, with oddities and garbage strewn about the porch and yard, and you wonder, "What goes on in there? And what could it possibly SMELL like in there?" Or, when you hear a news report about a family that has kept their kids locked in a small room for years where they wallow in their own filth. These things happen. That's why some critics place Chainsaw in the "horror of the family" genre.
5. Hansel and Gretel. Back to the structure: as night begins to fall, only two of the kids remain, Sally and her wheelchair-bound brother Franklin. They become increasingly scared as they realize they have no choice but to leave the van and enter the dark forest to find out where their friends are. This sequence is so well-filmed it becomes something right out of Hansel and Gretel. Sally pushes her brother through menacing twisted branches with only a flashlight to guide them. They shout the names of their dead friends in vain, and then that archetypal dialogue: "I think I see a light!" . . . . "It's a house!" Two more lambs drawn to the charnel hallway. On this weekend's viewing, knowing the terror that they were walking headlong into, I found this sequence to be not only scary but downright tragic. Then again, I have a crush on Sally, and I couldn't bear to think about what was in store for her.
6. Relentlessness / Verité. Midway through this search mission a shock occurs, and for the remaining 32 minutes of the film, Sally, and the viewer along with her, experience some of the most unrelenting brutality ever put to celluloid in the name of fiction, and if there's a non-fiction film that can match it, I hope some people got arrested. Chainsaw's two most powerful twists on the slasher formula are one, relentlessness, and two, that it feels like cinema verité. Though there is absurdism and black comedy in these sequences, it still seems like a plausible vision of what being abducted by maniacs would be like (Ed Neal's performance as The Hitchhiker has some definite Mansonoid vibes). Marilyn Burns should have gotten a Best Actress Oscar -- her acting is naturalistic throughout Chainsaw, but especially and tortuously so in the last third of the film, as her psychosis overwhelms her and the screams and pleas cannot stop. At this point in the film, Sally herself becomes a monster, a blood-drenched and deranged symptom of brutality, just as scary to look at as her tormentors.
7. The Soundtrack. And, as long as we're giving out Oscars, one HAS to be given to Wayne Bell and Tobe Hooper for their original score, a harsh noise soundtrack created with crude home-made percussion and electronics. One of the most memorable tones in the film was made by sliding a pitchfork down a piece of sheet metal. There has never been a CD or LP release of this stuff, and apparently, the music does not exist in a mix separate from the movie soundtrack, meaning you can't hear it in any format without getting the dialogue and incidental sounds of the film. This is appropriate, because the music matches the visuals so perfectly a lot of viewers FEEL it long before they even really notice it. (The band Wolf Eyes cites this music as an inspiration, which makes sense, not to mention that the ratbirdskull artwork on the Dead Hills picture disc looks like something that might have been hanging in the chicken room.)
8. The Finale. And of course, all of this imagery is tied together by one of the more powerful closing sequences I've seen in any film. I've watched Chainsaw with people who did not enjoy it at all, and even they couldn't help but applaud after seeing the final seconds. Sally emerges from the bowels of hell to a thin artery of civilization, Texas Highway 172. A passing trucker helps her escape by running over The Hitchhiker and slowing Leatherface down with a wrench to his head. She jumps in the back of another passing truck and escapes, which spurns Leatherface into an epic dance of frustration. As she speeds away, she laughs like a maniac at the monster's demonstration. Yes, she has been forced into a totally deranged state, but there's hope in the laughter too; maybe part of her is still able to feel victorious.
But cut back to Leatherface and his chainsaw ballet. What happens now? Does another truck come speeding over the hill, taking care of Leatherface too? Does Sally go to the nearest town and tell the police her story, so that the family can be brought to justice? It doesn't matter; the world is now a different place. As Leatherface pirouettes in rage, his form bleeding into the backdrop of a blood-red Texas sunset, the picture stops cold and credits roll. Evil survives. Pure poetry. Give Gunnar Hansen an Oscar for the dance alone.
10-20-2004, 12:35 AM #2
**** solid post...now I want to watch it again.
10-20-2004, 01:08 AM #3Originally Posted by BigGreen
10-20-2004, 02:12 AM #4
the new one was good i thought. that one dude from "full metal jacket" was pretty **** funny. Andrew Bryniarski played leatherface, he is the dude from "the program". that is a big focker
10-20-2004, 09:06 AM #5
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